14/03/2020 – 14/03/2021: A remarkable year.
For the first time since the very first Last Post on Monday, 2 July 1928 (*), spectators were not allowed to attend the daily Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate on Saturday, 14 March 2020. The reason: COVID-19, which a year later is still having an impact on all our daily lives.
A chronological overview of this remarkable year:
- 14 March 2020: the ceremony is reduced to a strict minimum: i.e. the blowing of the Last Post in honour of the war dead of the Commonwealth; the public is no longer allowed under the Menin Gate.
- 18 March 2020 – 11 May 2020: instead of the normal three buglers, the Last Post is now played by just a single bugler.
- From 11 May 2020: three buglers are once again permitted.
- 1 July 2020: a maximum of 400 spectators are allowed to return.
- 28 July 2020: this number is reduced to 200 spectators.
- 29 October 2020 until now: no spectators are allowed and just two buglers.
The daily ceremony continues
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Last Post Association has done everything in its power to ensure the continuity of the daily ceremony. Chairman Benoit Mottrie: ‘The Last Post Association is both pleased and proud that its unique daily tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Commonwealth has been able to continue. When we look back on the past year, we realise that this was by no means self-evident.’
Chairman Mottrie continues: ‘The Last Post Association is deeply grateful that it was not deemed necessary to temporarily cancel the daily ceremony. I wish to offer my deep and heartfelt thanks to the buglers, the ceremonial assistants, the members of the LPA board and all other supporters for their outstanding efforts during this past difficult year. We have received thousands of messages of encouragement, not only from within Belgium but from around the world, expressing appreciation that the performance of the ceremony has been able to continue unbroken.
The Last Post Association would also like to thank the City of Ieper, the local police force and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for their understanding and assistance in making the continuance of the ceremony possible. Their co-operation and collaboration has been crucial, and will remain so until COVID-19 has finally been defeated.
During the past 12 months, the Last Post Association has much missed direct contact with our many visitors from home and abroad. Sadly, this continues to be the case. Until further notice, the current COVID-19 regulations mean that spectators are not allowed under or near the Menin Gate during the ceremony. We hope that this might change in the not-too-distant future.
(*) It was not possible to organise the ceremony during the Second World War.